3 Model-Approved Facial Exercises for Glowing Skin

Woman doing a facial exercise

Delmaine Donson / Getty Images

In theory, when you exercise consistently and correctly, you see results in the form of a leaner, tighter, stronger body. Why else would we shell out money for expensive gym memberships or take crazy classes that leave us in a puddle of sweat and tears? Science (and Instagram’s #beforeafter hashtag) has proven that exercise can transform our bodies, but what if we told you it could also change your skin? While several studies and experts have suggested that they do cause improvements, the long-term benefits of facial exercises have not been scientifically proven.

The idea of facial exercises is simple: Just like you would work out your thighs to make them firmer, facial exercise is founded on the belief that working out your face muscles will tone, lift, and boost volume. We spoke with holistic skincare expert Julie Lindh and board-certified dermatologist Brooke Jackson about exactly how facial exercises work and more importantly, how to do it ourselves. (Warning: Do not attempt in public spaces if you’d like to retain a sense of dignity).

Meet the Expert

  • Julie Lindh is a holistic skincare expert and the founder and creator of her eponymous skincare line.
  • Brooke Jackson is a board-certified dermatologist based in North Carolina.

Check out three facial exercises for women that will help lift and tighten your skin.

How Do Facial Exercises Work?

“Facial exercise works on your facial muscles to increase their strength,” Lindh explains. “While you do them, you’re actually helping to re-contour your face in a way.” As we age, the more collagen we lose, which results in sagging, drooping, and wrinkles. Lindh says that building up your face muscles will plump up spots that would normally see a reduction in collagen during aging (namely, your cheek area).

“Muscle is muscle,” Lindh says. “Facial muscles react the same way as your arms and legs do when you go to the gym to work out. The movement helps increase heat and microcirculation in those areas—the stronger the muscles beneath the skin, the tighter it looks on the surface.”

What Are the Benefits of Facial Exercises?

Lindh says there are a number of benefits to daily facial exercise, the main one being tighter, fuller, plumper skin. “When you do facial exercises, you’re contouring your face and shaping it up,” she says. “Doing them consistently will also increase blood circulation, and therefore increase your glow.” Other benefits of facial exercise include released tension, line reduction, and skin rejuvenation.

Jackson notes, though, that what facial exercises will not do is thicken the skin. "We all have muscles that contract and allow movement in one direction, along with an opposing group of muscles that allow movement in the opposite direction. Strengthening of one muscle group with repetitive exercise allows that muscle to thicken, get larger, and more defined," she says. "However, muscles of the face (think: the forehead, around the eyes, and on the neck) are generally very thin and unlikely to get appreciably larger from exercise as they are not intended to do the heavy lifting that our large muscle groups are." She adds that there are no clinical trials that show a significant benefit of facial exercises.

Facial Exercises to Try

The exercises Lindh share below target the section of the face that is typically the first to show signs of aging: your cheekbones. Lindh says that doing these exercises will make your face feel tired at first, but that’s normal. “It’s like going to the gym—you feel a little sore, the second day, you do it again and have more muscle memory, and the third day, it feels easier,” she says. “It’ll feel like you’ve been smiling all day.”

Exercise 1: Fish Lips

1. Suck in your cheeks like a fish, with your lips pursed.
2. With your lips still pursed, smile as hard as you can. (Lindh says to try and relax every other part of your face, like your eyes, while doing this.)
3. Hold for 10 seconds.
4. Relax.

Do four reps once a day.

Exercise 2: Kiss Face

1. Pout your lips like you’re about to kiss someone.
2. Smile as hard as you can with your lips still pursed. (Make sure to keep your eyes relaxed.)
3. Hold for 10 seconds.
4. Relax.

Do four reps once a day.

Exercise 3: The Whistler

Part One
1. Make an “O” with your lips, like you’re going to whistle.
2. Smile as hard as you can, with your lips still forward in the “O” shape.
3. Hold for 10 seconds.
4. Relax.
5. Repeat three times.

Part Two
1. Repeat steps one and two from Part One.
2. Pump your cheek muscles up and down 12 times with your lips still in an “O” shape.
3. Relax.

Do four reps once a day.

How Long Does It Take to See Results? 

Lindh swears that her natural, filler-free technique will plump up volume loss. She recommends doing these three exercises all in a row every day. You’ll start seeing results in as little as three days, but three weeks will yield noticeable results. “I tell my model clients to do these exercises before they go on the runway,” Lindh says. “It wakes your skin up instantly!”

If you're concerned about facial exercises causing wrinkles, Lindh argues that you aren’t holding these positions long enough to cause more wrinkles than you’d get from, say, drinking from a straw. “That’s why you need to focus on relaxing your eyes,” she says. “Relax everywhere else in your face, and just focus on the muscles on your cheeks. It might take a few days, but you’ll notice which muscle you’re supposed to be working.”

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